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How Contextual Constraints Affect Low-Income Working Parents’ Child Care Choices Heather Sandstrom Urban Institute NACCRRA 2012 National Child Care Policy.

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Presentation on theme: "How Contextual Constraints Affect Low-Income Working Parents’ Child Care Choices Heather Sandstrom Urban Institute NACCRRA 2012 National Child Care Policy."— Presentation transcript:

1 How Contextual Constraints Affect Low-Income Working Parents’ Child Care Choices Heather Sandstrom Urban Institute NACCRRA 2012 National Child Care Policy Symposium URBAN INSTITUTE Funded by the Office of Child Care at DHHS ACF and the Annie E. Casey Foundation

2 Overview Child care is a critical work support for employed parents as well as an important context for young children’s development. Employment constraints such as fluctuating work schedules, nonstandard hours, and inflexible work policies, as experienced by many low-income working parents, limit child care options. Research Questions: 1.What factors influence (facilitate or constrain) parents’ child care choices among low-income working families? 2.How does the early care and education context influence the process of choosing child care? URBAN INSTITUTE

3 Parental Child Care Decision-Making: Graphic Description Child Care Arrangement(s) Used Number Type Hours Price/costs Stability Perception of Quality Financial Assistance Used CCDF Subsidy Stability Amount Other Financial Assistance Parental Employment Outcomes Family and Child Outcomes Community Quantity and quality of child care supply Employment characteristics Social Networks Consumer Education /qualitative information Opportunities Constraints Barriers (As perceived by parent at time of child care selection) Family Parent & Child Characteristics Parent Values, Beliefs, & Definitions Preferences: Dynamic set of parent opinions ContextDecision MakingOutcomes Outcomes become part of context for next child care decision (Weber, 2011)

4 Methods Two low-income communities with high immigrant concentrations in Providence, RI and Seattle-White Center, WA 86 low-income working families (43 in each site) Eligibility criteria: below 250% poverty; parent/primary caregiver works at least 20 hours per week; child under age 5 in non-parental care Two rounds of in-depth qualitative interviews about 1 year apart; 90 minutes in length; conducted in English, Spanish, or English with translator Content analysis of qualitative data using NVivo software URBAN INSTITUTE

5 Sample 60% foreign-born (Dominican, Mexican, Vietnamese, Somali) 47% limited English proficient 48% single parent household Average total hours worked per week = 33 Average hourly wage = $ % worked “non-standard” hours (beyond M-F 8am-6pm) Average child age: 31 months (SD = 15) in Providence and 23 months (SD = 14) in Seattle Primary arrangement: 35% informal relative care, 35% family child care, 24% center-based care, 6% informal non-relative care 29 families (34%) received a child care subsidy URBAN INSTITUTE

6 What were the key decision factors that influenced families’ child care choices? URBAN INSTITUTE

7 Most Common Decision Factors 1.Convenience, location, and transportation (41%) 2.Cost of care (35%) 3.Having relatives as caregivers (33%) 4.Having a positive relationship with the provider (29%) 5.Availability/hours of provider (26%) URBAN INSTITUTE

8 How did the early care and education context influence families’ child care choices? URBAN INSTITUTE

9 Themes for Contextual Constraints Supply of child care options Parental awareness of child care options Affordability and accessibility of child care URBAN INSTITUTE

10 Supply of Child Care Options Few options met families’ particular child care needs in terms of child age and proximity. Early care and education programs often failed to meet parents’ scheduling needs. Families’ language needs narrowed their child care options. Finding a provider who would care for children with special needs was a challenge. URBAN INSTITUTE

11 Fern and her husband, a young White couple living near Seattle, wanted their 1-year-old daughter to attend a child care center; however, they had a difficult time locating a center close to their home that had availability and fit their work schedules. Head Start programs and center-based care options were filled to capacity, and they could only find family child care providers with spaces available. The waiting lists are just horrible around here. And another thing is that the good child care around here that I want to put her in, they start at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. and I have to be at school at 7, so we don’t have very many options. URBAN INSTITUTE

12 Oliveira was a single mother and home medical aid who worked night and weekend shifts. She struggled to find child care for her four children because of her work schedule. There’s no day cares that are open those hours. They’re like, ‘Well that’s not our concern. It’s being able to work.’ You’re supposed to be able to work any hours they offer you for your job. Well, there needs to be more day cares that have longer hours. URBAN INSTITUTE

13 Parental Awareness of Options Informal sources of information, including friends, family, neighbors and coworkers, were parents’ most trusted and most used sources of advice and knowledge on available child care options. CCR&Rs were sometimes difficult to use and access. – About 1/5 of study families used a CCR&R. – Many mentioned feeling dissatisfied with the services and search tools available. – Office hours were inconvenient. – Information on providers were outdated and unreliable. Large knowledge gaps existed among immigrants and LEP parents. Immigrants utilized family child care; LEP: Head Start. URBAN INSTITUTE

14 Ola was a mother of five children ranging in ages from 2 through 12. She worked nonstandard hours as a home nursing aide. She used her local CCR&R but ran into difficulties locating care. They have a really good resource for finding child care. It’s just finding good child care that’s hard... I just did my homework, so out of the 15 people they gave me, 4 of them were not day cares any more, some of them would only take up to 2 years old, and a couple of them would only take 5 and older, and I have kids of all ages, and I don’t want to be running around. URBAN INSTITUTE

15 Affordability and Accessibility High child care costs for private care and low income eligibility requirements for subsidized programs limited care options. Navigating the child care subsidy system posed challenges for several families. – Complications when filling out paperwork – A long wait process before receiving notification – Challenges locating an available provider – Instability in their child care when exiting subsidy program – Language, literacy, and cultural barriers – Confusion over eligibility requirements – Fear of government among immigrant families (U.S.-born 20% more likely to have subsidy than foreign-born) URBAN INSTITUTE

16 Suchin, mother of a toddler and a young infant, selected informal relative care for her youngest even though she preferred center-based care because of the cost. No, [I don’t use center-based care] just because I work part time and the other thing is that it’s so expensive. And if I put him in day care it would kind of just take away my checks. So what’s the point in working? It just didn’t work, and with my mom working second shift, we really didn’t have to. Our hands weren’t tied like, ‘he has to go to day care.’ So at least we have help between my mother and my mother-in-law. We decided that financially it wasn’t worth it and we didn’t have to. URBAN INSTITUTE

17 Grace, a mother of an infant, selected family child care because of the cost and convenience. The main thing is to find somebody with the hours that you need, the days that you need, a place that you can call in an emergency, that you can afford, and it’s sad that you’ve gotta choose you day care by a place that you can afford, but that’s kinda what we went through…You know we don’t have a car. So we figure we’re going to have to bus it. If there was an emergency, we had to have it close to our job…There was just so many things to take in and deal with and to find a good one. URBAN INSTITUTE

18 Conclusions Waitlists, limited schedules, and child age limits constrained low-income working parents’ child care choices. – Particularly true for parents with nonstandard work hours and those who did not receive or qualify for child care assistance. Families relied primarily on informal sources of information. – CCR&Rs and local human services agencies were difficult to access for some and provider databases were often unreliable and challenging to use. Families were frustrated with the high costs of child care and low income eligibility requirements for subsidized programs. – Cost was a critical decision factor for 1/3 of families. – Challenges with child care assistance– lack of awareness, misunderstanding of subsidy requirements, and rejected applications URBAN INSTITUTE

19 Discussion Questions 1.There’s a need to give greater attention to the work-care fit of low-income families with nonstandard hours. What efforts do you know of that could be useful? 2.What challenges do CCR&Rs face in providing services to low-income families? What strategies can they implement to better meet clients’ needs? 3.How can we improve outreach to low-income families to increase awareness of available child care options? URBAN INSTITUTE

20 For more information, see the research brief on the Urban Institute web site “How Contextual Constraints Affect Low- Income Working Parents' Child Care Choices” Or contact Heather Sandstrom at the Urban Institute: URBAN INSTITUTE


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